A few words about the Christian notion of the “preferential option for the poor,” a central concept in much Latin American liberation theology. This theological method assumes that God favors the poor and marginalized in history, and “God is on their side” in very real power struggles on earth. Theology is done from the margins; practice is emphasized over theory; “base communities” (small gatherings of believers) complement the institutional church as a place for discussing the Bible. According to Wikipedia, there are 80,000 base communities operating in Brazil alone.
As I see it, the “preferential option for the poor” simply doesn’t jive with Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory. Evolutionary theology is thought produced by the cultural elites; thinking done from the margins–the poor, the oppressed, the illiterate–is reduced to lower levels of theological discourse. Liberation theology is acceptable to Integral theory on the basis that it’s a reflection of red and green altitude perspective whose claim on evolutionary theory must be included and transcended as merely a step in an ongoing process.
In Soulfully Gay, I tell a story that partly bridges the gap between liberation theology and mysticism. My central theological claim is that feminine and homophilic types have been marginalized by contemporary perspectives, and that a proper understanding of God will restore the balance created by the currently out-of-whack perspective that emphasizes agentic and homophobic modes of relating. If communal modes of theology are out of balance, homophilic modes are neglected even more so. (Communal and homophilic perspectives are even more neglected. However, not being a lesbian I feel rather unqualified to discuss this topic in depth.) So in my estimation, doing theology from the point of view of disenfranchised or underrepresented voices is critical to forming adequate conceptions of the relationship of God and Creation.
And yet as I see it today, my remarks in Soulfully Gay are only the beginning of a more comprehensive critique of Integral religious thought. As a Christian, I intuit the necessity to give greater value to perspectives of the least, the poorest, the most simple, feeble, and meek. This is the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ. To not be faithful to the notion “Blessed are the poor…” is not a viable option.
And so my perspective on evolution is more or less the opposite of the approach taken by Integral religious thought (specifically the most rigid and elitist varieties). Their approach tends to favor the perspectives of the most highly sophisticated, evolved, and elite. In my blogs (particularly those posts related to Kronology), I have suggested a way beyond the deadlock. To bring the “preferential option for the poor” into Integral theology is to take an additional perspective not already included within mainstream Integral theory.
Consider Ken Wilber’s three fundamental perspectives on value–Absolute (the absolute value of an object for God), Intrinsic (the value of an object in itself), and Relative (the value of an object for others). I suggest that the “preferential option for the poor” demands at least a fourth perspective: Relatively Absolute (the relative value of an object for God). This perspective involves seeing the world through the prism of involution, not evolution (generally defined esp. as “regressive changes” and a “function which is its own inverse”). We must trace God’s footprints in history by positing the involutionary footprint that accompanies every evolutionary development.
Assume hypothetically that there are 10 stages of development–say: 1x, 2x, 3x, 4x, 5x, 6x, 7x, 8x, 9x, 10x. Then the Absolute perspective is 0. The equation for solving the Absolute perspective is, e.g., 1x = 0. x = 0/1 or x = 0. The Absolute perspective is solved by dividing the stage by the Absolute perspective. The result is always 0 (x = 0); hence it is accurate to say that in the absolute perspective all stages are equal in God’s eyes (0/1 = 0/2, etc.). The involutionary footprint acknowledges the validity that in God’s eyes all are equal, because it understands the leveling and equalizing power of 0 in the equation of life. Before 0, all relative value distinctions are obliterated.
However, there are other ways to solve for x=0. For it’s true that 1x = 0, but it’s also true that 1x + (-1x) = 0. The involutionary footprint is the negative value added to the evolutionary stage in order for the sum to result in x = 0. Thus, 2x + (-2x) = 0, 3x + (-3x) = 0, etc. The positive value represents a stage of development in an outward or other-centered direction (Eros); the negative value represents a stage in vertical development in an inner or immanent direction (Agape). Or to use the biased language of evolutionists, Agape is regression. By analogy, for every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction.
The implications of seeing an invisible trail of Agape as a footprint in evolution are enormous. It only scratches the surface to note that evolution is not merely a march forward to greater progress. It is accompanied at every stage of growth by increasing involution. The higher we appear to ascend, the deeper God appears to fall. The lower we appear to ascend, the less God seems to decline. From God’s relative point of view at 0, evolution and involution are equivalent, merely twin sides of the coin. Not only is one level of development not greater than any other, but the greater the apparent value the deeper the descent of God. By analogy, the negative numbers closest to 0 are prized, just as the poorest of the poor are the closest to God.
Thus, we can begin to understand the “preferential option for the poor” as something like a “preferential option for the underdeveloped, the lesser evolved”. From God’s relative point of view, the least feeble and weakest among the creatures are those who are less in “need” of God’s help, guidance, and comfort. They get more from God because they have less. God’s preference, God’s leveling and balancing act in History, is to give more and more of God’s self in self-sacrificial love (Agape) to the porrest, the meekest, and the least evolved. Relatively speaking, God’s love for the marginalized is greater than God’s love for the sophisticates and the realizers. It’s not fair, but this is part of the proclamation of Jesus’ teachings of the Reign of Heaven.
The involutionary insight of Christian theology can be appreciated from an Integral lense, but only by turning the scales of evolution upside down, and reimagining the universe from God’s point of view. God is not neutral in the conflict between the sophisticated elites and the marginalized poor. God is on the side of the lesser developed. It’s not an easy truth; it’s not fair (to our eyes most likely), but it’s the nature of the Reign of Heaven.